Employee Acknowledgement for Employee Handbook

I have an employee who refuses to sign the Acknowledgement form for the Employee Handbook.  He also refuses to sign the company policy for "Committment to Work and Safety" and the "Anti-Discrimination and Harrassment Policy".  (These are distributed each year to all employees as updates to employment.)  He has been with the company 22 years and management wants to let it ride.  My position as HR manager is, "It is not enought to merely have a policy.  Policy without enforcement is just an ineffective policy.  There is a big difference betwen adoption and active enforcement."

Has anyone else had this problem?  Any comments?


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  • Not every policy must be signed to be put into place by the employer.  To me as long as you can prove he received a copy and was expected to abide by it and it was consistently applied, I can understand management's decision to let it ride.  You can still terminate him for not following company policy. I would protect the employer's interest by having at least one written warning (if the incident is not one that is absolutely a terminatable offense the first time) which I am sure he will also refuse to sign.  Therefore, make sure to have at least one witness to the warning. Then if he blows off the policy a second time, it would be bye-bye employee. I do agree that if you aren't going to enforce a policy, there is no reason to have it!

    That said, I would bring him in with his Manager and have the manager and yourself sign that he was given the policies and was expected to abide by them regardless of whether he agreed with, signed or read them.  Heck, I would be willing to sit there and make him stay through a Kindergarten reading of said policy since he is refusing to acknowledge them.  If it was legal in your state, I would also let him know that I was taping the conversation as proof.  But that is probably going overboard LOL. Although there have been times where I have done that when managers/employees prove that they have no clue as to what certain policies are (or they lie about it!).

  • The question here is not one of adoption or enforcement of the policies in the handbook.  The question is about your policy regarding refusing to sign a handbook.

    The strongest card to play is discipline for insubordination: signing acknowledgement as evidence that the employee has received a handbook isn't coercive in the same sense as signing an agreement to do something.  Of course, if your handbook receipt includes an agreement to read the handbook, then the status of the agreement might be different if he only signs it under threat of discipline.  You'd have to talk to a local emploment law attorney about the wisdom or enforceability of the terms of any agreement contained in the acknowledgement.

    The next strongest card to play is to discipline him for not signing acknowledgement on any basis, probably insubordination or code of conduct, and get him to sign the disciplinary document, which will indicate that he received a copy of the handbook and is required to read it and bring any questions about its contents to HR as part of the disciplinary action taken.  Here, instead of signing an agreement under coercion, the employee is required to read the handbook as the disciplinary measure instead of as an agreement of some kind.

    The next strongest card to play is to meet the employee with a witness, place a handbook into his hands with his name written on it, tell him that is his copy of the handbook and he is expected to read it and bring any questiosn about its contents to HR.  The employee's direct supervisor and you as a witness sign a statement giving the content, date, time, and place of the meeting.  This has the same effect as the written disciplinary action, above, but it is far less confrontational.

    The last option is the most likely one to please operational/business management while meeting your need to ensure that there's some sort of HB acknowledgement laying around.

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